NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. Graduation season has arrived — typically a time when students reflect on their education and their futures. But at the UMass Dartmouth commencement Sunday, there was a different element hanging over the ceremony: the Boston Marathon bombings.
Staff handed out red carnations for Mother’s Day and buttons that read “UMass Dartmouth Strong.” Graduating seniors wore the buttons on their gowns and family and friends pinned them to their clothes.
Before the ceremonies began, police inspected bags and conducted sweeps with bomb-sniffing dogs. Chancellor Divina Grossman opened her remarks with a moment of silence, then noted the unusual circumstances.
“This has been a year for UMass Dartmouth like no other,” Grossman said. “And due to the tragic and heartbreaking events of the last few weeks, this is a commencement like no other.”
Grossman paid tribute to the school public safety dispatcher who recognized Tsarnaev was a student and set the campus evacuation in motion. And she commended the campus leaders who organized vigils and raised money for bombing victims.
Student speaker Amber Eusebio said the event brought the campus closer together.
“At that time we were not just individual students, we became one student body,” Eusebio said. “A student body that wouldn’t allow anyone to be missing, neglected or not looked after.”
Outside the graduation tent, students and guests gathered after the ceremony. Tyler Guay said Tsarnaev’s connection to the school was a fluke.
“At any moment something crazy to that extent could happen and it doesn’t make me afraid to walk around because I already know that there are people who want to do bad things and who could potentially do them to me at any time,” he said.
Several students said the post-bombing events were barely on their minds. They were just focused on having fun and moving on.